Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A $5 Quilt

I recently purchased this quilt for $5. From all the madder paisleys and blue violets I am guessing it's from about 1870-1890.

The pattern is one of my favorites, BlockBase #2056,
which the Ladies Art company called Union about 1890.

It's very scrappy blocks sashed with a print strip. Has a sawtooth border.

The sash alternates a feathery shape with a red oblong.
Rather strange print.

You might think I got a bargain but the poor thing is in terrible shape.

Nearly every block has severe fabric loss.

So my question is how can a quilt get this worn out?
It doesn't look like it was put between the mattress and the springs,
a form of quilt torture that produces a very worn top, but this one
is too fluffy for that.

In fact it's too fluffy to have been quilted in 1890.
Parts of the binding are multi-colored floral prints that look
1930-1960. And the backing is a loosely woven white cotton
you often see on the back of 20th century quilts.

I wonder if it wasn't quilted about 1950 (sixty or seventy years after the top was made.)

That could explain the wear. All those 1950 stitches through 1880 fabric.
The fabrics just disintegrated

Quilting old tops from the 19th century is a ba-a-d idea. Especially tops with
brown fabrics that are delicate due to the dyes. 

Dot thinks it might make a good dog bed.


  1. I have a top I bought at the thrift store for $2. It appears to be pieced with fabric from the 20's-30's and still has the paper attached (old catalog used for foundation piecing). I wanted to wash it (gently) and quilt it but seeing what you wrote about quilting old tops I'm having doubts now. Would it be okay to hand quilt the top using 100% cotton thread?

  2. Well, I think Dot has the right idea! But, I must admit I have seen worse. My son (and his son) loved his flannel quilt literally to DEATH. I was able to rescue just 4 small pieces in order to "plant" them in the new quilt. Kind of like a sourdough starter! I wrote a post about it - http://theconstantquilter.blogspot.com/2015/10/super-nana-to-rescue.html . Hope Dot enjoys her new bed!

  3. Recently I found a similar quilt but in better shape. Someone had joined about 24 15" 19th century blocks together, then tied it with floss, but used thick fluffy batting.....yuck! One brown fabric is trying to shatter, so it's just for gentle display now. The fabrics are old shirtings in navy, creams, tans and brown on muslin. It is what it is..... And I love it.

  4. Thank you Barbara Brackman! I have two old quilt tops in red and white, totally hand-pieced in the tiniest stitches and I was going to quilt them to "save" them. But now I will gently tack them. You made me see the light!

  5. After the blocks, that sashing fabric was something that caught my eye. Quite unusual. The worn blocks may have to do with mordants in the dye. I have a quilt made by my great grandmother where certain fabrics are rotting away. If it had been places on a sunny bed, that might have speeded to process.

  6. Very interesting post... I have two quilts from my grandmother's home that have a lot of pink, blue, and brown in it and are pretty worn, too. I've always wondered how to date them. By researching here and there, and seeing this post, I've decided mine are late 1800's too.

  7. NOOoooooo! NO to a dog bed! It is a treasure no matter it's falling apart. It is a beautiful treasure! Thank you for telling us about the hazards of quilting an old top.

  8. Polyester batting can shred old cotton tops like sandpaper.

  9. I think there is a difference between quilting an old top and using it, and quilting an old top and carefully preserving it. This old quilt top seems to have been misused and the batting choice was poorly made. There can be a huge difference in antique quilt tops, some survive in wonderful shape and some continuously deteriorate from the mordants regardless of how they are treated. I have some that fall into both categories, I treasure them all. I would never quilt one with weakened fabric. If I quilted one, it would still remain a treasured antique and treated with care. Just my opinion.